Hitting in the Great Northwest

At the lower levels of the minors, you see a wide variety of experience levels, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the short-season leagues. The Padres' Northwest League affiliate in Eugene had contributions from an 18-year old three months out of high school, college graduates taken in the top rounds of this year's draft, returners from last year's team, and several players who started the year further up the system.

With such different experience levels, evaluating a player's status as a prospect can be a challenge.

Selecting the team's batter of the year is made harder because nine players who logged time with the Emeralds ended the year in the Midwest League. Among those who shined in a small number of games was Josh Alley, whose eye-popping .500 on base percentage (to go with a .500 slugging percentage) earned him a promotion after only 14 games.

While he likely would have earned the nod if he'd stayed in Eugene, I can't give a season award to someone with the team for less than 20 percent of their games.

Instead, the top honor comes down to the side-by-side power production of Nick Hundley and Chase Headley. Hundley and Headley, taken 10 picks apart in this year's second round, both play premium positions and flashed the talent that got Padres' scouts excited.

Hundley, a catcher out of the University of Arizona, went for seven homers and 15 total extra-base hits on the way to a .453 slugging percentage. A strong command of the zone (33 walks against 35 strikeouts in just over 180 plate appearances) helped keep his OBP at .391 even as his average flattened out at .250.

Headley, a switch-hitting third baseman who was a teammate of Alley at Tennessee, was a notch behind Hundley in both slugging and on base percentage, but hit for a slightly higher average. Hitting left-handed, Headley was much more of a threat, hitting 35 points higher and slugging 70 points better than when he turned around. He'll need to raise his numbers against lefties as he continues to be a true threat as a switch-hitter.

Although it's close, Hundley takes the crown as the Batter of the Year in my book, with Headley a close second. Although Mike Sansoe's .290 average was good enough to lead the team and the 18th-round pick deserves kudos, and Drew Davidson showed good raw power in both Eugene and Ft. Wayne, both were the second-tier on a team that featured many offensive disappointments.

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